The activities we do every day — hunching over a phone screen, unloading groceries from the car, reaching for an item on a high shelf — put a surprising amount of strain on our bodies. Move inefficiently and you could end up with overused muscles, tight fascia and injuries. Gyrotonic exercises can help.
The Gyrotonic method is a fusion of yoga, ballet, tai chi, gymnastics and swimming. It works independent muscle groups in an integrated way to increase flexibility and coordination and help build strength.
Similar to how Pilates focuses on the core and breathwork, Gyrotonic exercise also corrects dysfunctional patterns of the muscular and skeletal systems while promoting energy flow throughout the body. This is good news for athletes, those with chronic pain and those going through post-injury rehabilitation. Gyrotonic workouts also benefit those dealing with the aches and pains caused by the stressful, repetitive movements we do every day.
“It strengthens and stretches every part of the body and acts as a nervous system reboot,” says Katy Striebinger, a certified Gyrotonic trainer and Chicago River North Pilates owner.
The Gyrotonic Expansion System includes thousands of possible movement combinations on specialized pieces of equipment. Within the first few Gyrotonic sessions, clients can experience a lengthening in the spine, a release of joint tension and a sense of ease in the body.
The flowing, rhythmic workouts are built around fundamental spinal motions: arch, curl, spiral, wave and side bend. Many mimic movements seen in animals, such as a cat stretching or a dog yawning. The intention is to stimulate and move every system — muscular, skeletal, nervous — so the whole body can experience greater vitality.
“The ultimate aim is to be at home in one’s body, to be at one with the nature of oneself and to experience exercise as a creative and delightful experience,” explains Gyrotonic creator Juliu Horvath on the Gyrotonic website. Horvath, a former dancer with the Romanian National Ballet Company, founded Gyrotonic over 40 years ago following a career-ending ruptured Achilles tendon.
The system is comprised of two complementary methods: Gyrotonic (with equipment) and Gyrokinesis (with stools or mats and no equipment). Both allow the body to work in fluid, continuous movements, which calms the nervous system, slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure, reducing tightness and pain and increasing balance and overall health.
Gyrotonic movement sequences are uninterrupted and circular, unlike other exercise techniques, which tend to be linear and isolated. The low-impact practice allows joints to move naturally and encourages the joints and spine to stay supple and strong.
Gyrotonic exercise works on a fundamental level, explains Davi Edlebeck, Gyrotonic specialized master trainer and owner of the Chicago Center for Body Movement. “The system and method respect the entire body,” she says. “If you give your body what it needs on a cellular level — which Gyrotonic does — the body will heal itself. It’s life-changing work.”
Although under the radar, the Gyrotonic method’s popularity is increasing. Over 13,000 trainers worldwide offer the Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis method. And if the sequences are a bit hard to visualize, the experience speaks for itself. Many clients call it the “fountain of youth,” because it reverses and corrects the effects gravity has on their bodies, often allowing clients to return to activities they’ve been unable to do because of pain, arthritis or restricted range of motion.
Those with chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries have also seen positive results. European hospitals have incorporated Gyrotonic exercises for years, and osteopaths and physical therapists are beginning to embrace its healing qualities in the U.S.
Star power? Yes — Lady Gaga, Tiger Woods, Madonna, Sting, Andy Murray and dancers from the Joffrey Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater have practiced the Gyrotonic method. In fact, Edlebeck, who introduced Lady Gaga and many Chicago-area elite athletes to the discipline, says, “Gyrotonic changes your energy, the way you move in the world, your confidence. It changes everything.”